An infectious West Nile Virus that expresses a GFP reporter gene

Theodore C. Pierson, Michael S. Diamond, Asim A. Ahmed, Laura E. Valentine, Carl W. Davis, Melanie A. Samuel, Sheri L. Hanna, Bridget A. Puffer, Robert W. Doms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne, neurotropic flavivirus that causes encephalitis in humans and animals. Since being introduced into the Western hemisphere in 1999, WNV has spread rapidly across North America, identifying this virus as an important emerging pathogen. In this study, we developed a DNA-launched infectious molecular clone of WNV that encodes a GFP reporter gene. Transfection of cells with the plasmid encoding this recombinant virus (pWNII-GFP) resulted in the production of infectious WNV capable of expressing GFP at high levels shortly after infection of a variety of cell types, including primary neurons and dendritic cells. Infection of cells with WNII-GFP virus was productive, and could be inhibited with both monoclonal antibodies and interferon-β, highlighting the potential of this system in the development and characterization of novel inhibitors and therapeutics for WNV infection. As expected, insertion of the reporter gene into the viral genome was associated with a reduced rate of viral replication, providing the selective pressure for the development of variants that no longer encoded the full-length reporter gene cassette. We anticipate this DNA-based, infectious WNV reporter virus will allow novel approaches for the study of WNV infection and its inhibition both in vitro and in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 30 2005


  • Flavivirus
  • Molecular clone
  • Reporter gene
  • West Nile Virus


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